If Tabla Beat Science is a unique experiment in creating new fusions of Indian classical rhythms with modern electronic beats we can say it has achieved its purpose. This encounter with one of its kind cross cultural fusion ...

By Ilyas Qureshi

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Published: Sun 8 Feb 2004, 3:01 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 12:34 AM

had the Dubai audience awe-struck and spellbound at the open-air arena of the Nad Al Sheba Club amphitheatre on Friday evening.

The catchline of the concert being it's all in the mix, Indian tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain and sarangi supremo Ustad Sultan Khan of Piya Basanti fame opened the musical project, the latter unleashing a profusion of spontaneous microtonal runs and buzzing-insect sounds. Hussain, an absolutely extraordinary tabla artist whose dexterity is legendary, began to pick up on Sultan's phrasing who supplied eerie vocals over a deftly-bowed sarangi. His Albela Sajan set the mood for the musical evening as the two created music of the extraordinary kind.

With the right mood set, the rest of the band appeared and the music accelerated into a hard-hitting westernised electric fusion. American bassist Bill Laswell squeezed in smoothly while Karsh Kalle exploded in a rapid-fire staccato percussion play and scratcher of the first order DJ Disk created the modern audio psychedelia with his hyperkinetic turntable. The ever-grinning Salim Merchant, recent winner of the Screen Awards for best background score in Bhoot, lent excellent keyboard support.

Last but not the least was the arrival of the majestic Ethiopian singer Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw who cut swathes of searing vocal sound and quavering, between-notes wails through the ensemble, while Hussain and DJ Disk performed a show-stopping exchange of breakneck beats and sound effects that ended with the former playing a pretty creditable drum break on his metal plate. As a cross-cultural technical extravaganza, it was dazzling.

Hussain held a central but far from dominant position in the landscape, presiding over a range of traditional Indian tabla. The Western rhythmic hemisphere came fixed on a pretty funky assortment as Karsh Kale and Bill Laswell supplied a freestyle jazz/rock rhythm section of drums and bass but what was more enchanting was the duel between the tabla and the disc. Sultan Khan wasn't far behind as he chipped in with More Piya Ke from the Zakir composed Mr and Mrs Iyer film song.

The pulse beat flowed all throughout the one-and-half-hour concert and had the tranced audience eating out of the hands of the sextet but when the music ended the audience didn't know how to react. Dumbfound, they exited the arena like children whose favourite toy had been just snatched away. Hadia Nehme, a PR executive with Hilton Dubai Jumeirah, summed up the evening thus, "Excellent, but too short". Organised by Reshma Nawaz Hussain, the concert was co-sponsored by Khaleej Times.

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